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[GreenYes] (surprise!) recycling better than dumping and burning

By Paul Sanderson

Recycling has been proven to be the best way to deal with waste in an
environmentally friendly way, a major study has found.

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) commissioned the
report from the Technical University of Denmark and the Danish Topic
Centre on Waste to look at hundreds of Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)
studies from around the globe to work out what is the best way of
dealing with waste in order to minimise harmful CO2 emissions.

Its research concluded that for glass, wood, paper and cardboard,
plastics, aluminium, steel and aggregates, recycling created less
emissions that other waste treatments including incineration and landfill.

However, with some materials such as wood, there were only a limited
amount of LCA studies available and so the data is still sketchy.

WRAP director of policy and evaluation Ray Georgeson said: "A report
like this hasn't been done anywhere in the world before. More than
80% of the studies we looked at show recycling has better
environmental impact than landfill and incineration.

"This is good news all round. It chimes with the waste hierarchy,
Government plans for the Waste Strategy and shows recycling makes a
significant contribution to helping prevent climate change."

The report even shows that when transportation of materials for
recycling abroad is still better environmentally than creating a
product from virgin material or sending it for landfill or
incineration in the UK.

In order to work out the best life cycle for each material, the
Danish researchers looked at Life Cycle Analyses and worked out which
form of waste treatment the study has a preference for. In most
cases, recycling came out top. For example, it was found that for the
recycling of plastics, 32 studies preferred recycling of the material
compared to only 8 for incineration. While 15 studies preferred
recycling to none for landfill when it came to plastics recycling.

A similar pattern was found for paper, glass, aluminium and steel.

WRAP plans to hold an international conference in the autumn to
discuss the findings of the report.

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